General Body MRI
MRI is a noninvasive exam that produces detailed images of the body without using radiation. At Washington Radiology, our MRI radiologists have special expertise in body imaging, using both 1.5 and 3.0 Tesla magnets to provide an exceptionally accurate result.
Body MRI generally refers to images of the chest, abdomen and pelvic areas. MRI technology uses a strong magnet, radio frequency waves and a computer to create images of these areas and even the smallest structures in the body.
As a diagnostic test, body MRI is especially useful in the early detection of various conditions when treatment options are very favorable.
One of our registered technologists will position you on the padded MRI table. They will position the part of your body to be scanned and make sure you are relaxed and comfortable. For most exams, we will play music for you. Your exam table will carefully ease into the MRI scanner. As the equipment performs the scan sequence, you will hear noise from the magnet, which is normal. Your view will be limited by the scanner, and you may feel a slight vibration or warmth. Some patients fall asleep during this time. It’s important that you are as still as possible during the exam to obtain the highest-quality images. Based on the type of MRI exam you are having and the number of images required, each series of scans will last 20 to 45 minutes.
With MRI, it is possible to see with great clarity structures in the body that other imaging procedures cannot capture. Examination of the brain, nerves, spinal cord, musculoskeletal areas (bones and joints), breasts, and abdominal and pelvic organs make up most MRIs.
Because MRI uses no X-rays and ionizing radiation, it presents no known risk to adults and children. If you are pregnant or nursing, you should consult your physician about having intravenous contrast “dye” before having an MRI exam. MRI without intravenous contrast is safe for pregnant and nursing patients.
A registered MRI technologist will help you prepare for the exam, position you on the table and perform the exam as directed by the radiologist. Together, this experienced medical team will oversee your care and ensure you are comfortable. The results will be interpreted by a board-certified radiologist with specialized expertise in MRI evaluations and reporting.
MRI does not use X-rays and ionizing radiation like a CT scan. With a CT scan, X-rays and computer software are used to create 2D and 3D reconstructed images of the body. MRI involves sending electromagnetic waves, such as those used in radio transmission, in a safe magnetic environment. The body then sends tiny radio waves back to a computer recorder. The different cells in the body create unique signals, with each molecule having its own radio frequency. The computer can tell the minuscule differences between the wavelengths of the radio waves and uses that information to create images of the body.
Because MRI and CT use entirely different techniques for mapping the body, the images show different characteristics of anatomy.
A board-certified radiologist will interpret your scan and the dictated results will be sent to your referring physician, usually within 24 to 48 hours. Your physician will then share the results with you.
There are some situations where MRI is not recommended due to the use of the high-field magnet. We will review these details with you during scheduling to be sure you are an appropriate candidate for MRI. These conditions include, but are not limited to:
- A heart pacemaker
- Some other implanted electronic medical devices such as cochlear implants
- Severe claustrophobia
The Washington Radiology nurse overseeing your care will call you several days before the exam to review preparation and any conditions that may make it unsafe to have an MRI.
Preparing for Your Exam
Patient peace of mind starts with the right preparation. In addition to the written order from your physician, please bring any prior images or reports from outside Washington Radiology with you to your appointment, if related to the reason for your visit with us.
For all MRI patients, we request the following:
- Continue to take any medications prescribed by your physician, unless otherwise directed.
- Wear comfortable clothing without metal zippers, buttons, hooks, etc.
- Because of the magnetic field, do not wear metal hair clips or eye makeup that may contain small metallic flecks, which can interfere with your scan.
- Leave jewelry and valuables at home.
- A secure locker will be available to leave metal objects, like your keys and watch.
MRI With and/or Without Contrast
- Inform us if you have a pacemaker, artificial heart valves or any metal objects in your body, or if you are pregnant or nursing.
- Do not eat or drink two hours before your exam.
MRI-Guided Breast Biopsy
- Avoid aspirin or other blood thinning products for five days before the procedure, unless otherwise instructed at time of scheduling.
- Do not eat solid food up to four hours before your exam.
- You may drink clear fluids up to two hours before your exam.
If you have follow-up questions about these MRI preparations, contact the Washington Radiology office where your exam is scheduled and ask to speak with the nurse.
3022 Williams Drive
Fairfax, VA 22031
Chevy Chase, MD
4445 Willard Avenue
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
2141 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20037
12505 Park Potomac Avenue
Potomac, MD 20854